How to Clean an Electric Smoker

by The Smoke Expert on December 10, 2013

For all those who love smoking meat, an electric smoker represents the ultimate in convenience. However, if you’re truly serious about grilling and barbecuing, then one of the most important things you need to do is take good care of your electric smoker. This will give you a better return on your investment and will ensure that your smoker lasts for many a years instead of just a few years. Some smokers need seasoning while other will require the periodic repair and paint job but all smokers do need to be cleaned regularly and preferably after every use.

Most of the electric smokehouses that I’ve used need to be seasoned properly from time to time. Almost all the major brands come with an instruction manual but the basic procedure for all of them remains the same. My first advice would be to read the instruction manual carefully to find out the best method for preparing your smoker.

How to clean an electric smoker

Seasoning a metal smoker is very similar to season a cast iron pan and all you need to do is coat the inside surface with oil. Don’t fret a lot over the type of oil to be used as it won’t make much difference so there really is no need to spend time and money on the oil. I’ve used oil ranging from Pam oil to peanut oil and even bacon grease at one point of time!

Once you’ve got oil all over the surface of the smoker, you need to then heat the oil to make sure that it seeps into all those imperfections and hard to reach places. What this will do is create a future barrier against water and prevent further rusting. I tend to heat the smoker to a temperature of around 250 to 275 degrees F. Don’t overheat because I’ve seen a lot of smokers (and especially the cheaper ones) lose their paint if the temperature is too high.

There will a quite a few of you out there who have electric smokers that don’t require seasoning and for you folks, I suggest heating the smokehouse to around 250 degrees F. Remember that you need to use smoke whether or not you’re seasoning because the smoke residue will create a protective surface over the smoker that will prevent rust. You also need to take care of the ventilation to keep the fire going and look out for any formation of creosote. It’s one hell of a nasty substance that is often found in poorly ventilated electric grills and you want to avoid it at all costs.

Now it is important that you keep your smoker clean and maintain the protective coating. This is done by keeping the ashes and food build up out of the smoker, but by not scrubbing the smoker down to the metal.

You may need to clean out the smoker completely from time to time and re-season it but you want to maintain the oily, smoky surface in the smoker to prevent rusting. But I’m serious about keeping the ashes out of the smoker. Don’t let ash sit in there for long periods of time because ash absorbs water and oil and can cause rusting in your fire box. Grease can also trap water against the metal so any large deposits of grease need to be scraped out. I find that scraping away the grease gently solves most problems.

One of the biggest irritants you’ll find while cleaning your smoker is the presence of rust and that’s why it’s extremely important to check your smokehouse from time to time and ensure that there is no rust formation. You can use a good wire brush to scrub out the rust and I’ve even used sandpaper to good effect.

More importantly, once you’ve removed the rust, you need to immediately repaint that area with heat resistant barbecue paint. Use good quality paint and my suggestion would be to not compromise on the price because it pays off in the long run.

A lot of people, including me, have invested a lot of money into their smokers and there’s no reason why we can’t have them running like new for years. After all, your smoker is the key to awesomely tasting smoked food so it’s your priority to take good care of it and clean it regularly. Regular cleaning will ensure that your barbecue will remain in an amazing working condition and get better with age.

I’ve always said that the biggest secret to a great barbecuing is knowing your equipment inside out. Treat your electric smoker like an investment and not just financial. You’ve also invested a lot of time into it and for that reason alone, you deserve a smoker that will proved you with amazing smoked food for years!

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